“Walnut Tree”, time to tell our story
Art and Experience: Young director Mohammad-Hossein Mahdavian is well-known for telling factual political stories in his movies, but his latest film “Walnut Tree”, which is competing in the 38th Fajr Film Festival, narrates a different story.
The film tells the true story of Qader Mulanpur, a man who was away when his family was impacted by the chemical attack in a village near Sardasht. His effort to save his pregnant wife and their three children are in vain, and they die one by one from the fatal wounds sustained as a result of the chemical attack. There is nothing he can do for them except for burying them under their favorite walnut tree.
The story of Sardasht is one of the saddest and yet forgotten stories of our land. Iraq bombarded the Iranian town of Sardasht in West Azerbaijan Province with chemical weapons on June 28, 1987, killing over 1000 and injuring over 8000 civilians, many of whom were permanently disabled due to respiratory problems.
Sardasht was not even considered a military target; the population was both unprotected and unprepared for a chemical weapons assault.
To make “Walnut Tree” more realistic, Mahdavian used 16mm format, which was used during the 1980s, the exact same time period in which the story of his movie is set.
Payman Maadi, the actor of “Camp X-Ray” and “Last Knights” portrays Qader beautifully. His role as an ordinary Kurdish man who is full of love for his family and yet powerless and helpless to do anything to help them at least suffer any less, is believable. Moreover, the makeup and costumes are such as to allow him to play his role in a more tangible way.
Iranian TV star and director Mehran Modiri also plays a leading role in the film but he doesn’t meet expectations.
Although Kurdish music is ear-catching, in some scenes of the film it seems superfluous and burdensome. As the tragedy is so horrific itself, it doesn’t need tear-provoking music for an effect on the audience in order to add more emotion to the scenes.
A school teacher who witnessed the whole story does the narration for the film. Although the narration in Mahdavian’s acclaimed movie “Standing in the dust” is very helpful, in “Walnut Tree” it seems unnecessary.
“Walnut Tree” might have its own strengths and weaknesses, but as the teacher says at the beginning of the film, it’s time to tell our story to the world.